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Enhanced 911 (E911)

Enhanced 911 (E911) is an enhanced version of the 911 system used in the United States for calls seeking emergency assistance such as police, fire, and ambulance services. Calls to 911 are routed to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) – E911 identifies the location of the caller and routes the call to the appropriate local PSAP, and provides the PSAP with location information in order to speed response. Landline and cell service providers both are required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support E911 where it is available.

Grapic showing how an E911 system can notify the front desk when an emergency call is placed from a specific conference room in an office

Who utilizes E911?

Every company should be utilizing E911 services. Some larger organizations who need advantages of robust solutions like E911 are universities, hospitals and massive office campuses. Think of the thousands of people at these locations who are on-site at any given time. E911 is specifically designed to connect these businesses to their emergency responders, and is more reliable than regular 911. Some advances E911 has over regular 911 are:

  • Enhanced location information 
  • GPS, to ensure if emergency responders are needed on certain floors or conference rooms of a building
  • Ability to use multiple devices to make a 911 call, like landlines, wireless phones, and VoIP phones

 If disaster strikes, businesses are going to need to be prepared. With E911, emergency responders will be able to know exactly where they can reach those in need, and do it in a timely manner. 

Is E911 Mandatory?

Short answer: for most states, yes. Long answer: the FCC requires that carriers and interconnected VoIP (IVoIP) providers must meet all industry 911 standards. This includes systems that automatically provide a call-back number and accurate emergency location information. Since 911 is a mandatory service feature for IVoIP service providers, you’ll want to choose a partner that supports all the tools necessary to make it easy to meet changing regulations.

While the national 911 system is decades old, new technologies to meet the needs of our increasingly mobile population are being deployed. As more users access 911 through IP-enabled mobile devices and are growing to expect imagery, audio, and video within these technologies, providers need to be ready. 

What Are the Rules and Regulations for E911?

There are many rules and regulations that are constantly developing in the 911 space, and these will vary state-to-state. There is, however, one constant rule for all states: any building with multiple floors must be broken up into different locations for emergency responders. 

Two changes that have undergone recently which have affected the rule books are Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’S Act. 

  • Kari’s Law: Requires the direct dialing of 911 be enabled without having to dial a prefix to reach an outside line in enterprise environments. Kari’s Law also directs the FCC to develop necessary 911 calling regulations for the multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) that are commonly used for communications services in buildings, like hotels, hospitals, and most office campuses. 
  • RAY BAUM’S Act: (Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act) Requires the Commission to strongly consider adopting a rule to create a unique location identification with each 911 call placed, regardless of the technology platform or device used. This would allow 911 call centers to receive the automatic location information of the caller, and dispatch to emergency responders more quickly.  

What is E911 for VoIP?

When you dial 911 from a VoIP phone, your call is automatically routed to a PSAP, which will then dispatch a local emergency responder to the address you have most recently registered as your location. Even though the registered address is automatically presented, callers will always want to be prepared to validate their name, location, and contact information.

Beyond traditional IVoIP services, new VoIP calling services are being developed that are even more mobile in nature.  As a result, Bandwidth has developed a service called Dynamic Location Routing, which features the latest Internet Protocol standard PIDF-LO (Presence Information Data Format-Location Object). Dynamic Location Routing is principally designed to support enterprises that may face call location challenges associated with large or multi-tenant addresses such as high rises or large campuses. Whether using a mobile IP device or IP devices anchored to the cloud, emergency responders will be given the most accurate, current location information available when emergency callers need them.

How Much Does E911 Cost?

E911 service fees vary depending on state or local jurisdiction, and range from $.0075 to $6.00. These fees are typically going to local or state government to recover costs associated with building and operating their 911 services. If you are unsure about your E911 service fees, or what the breakdown looks like between a landline, mobile phone, conference/work phone, etc,  NENA (National Emergency Number Association) has provided a chart which shows a breakdown of pricing per state, based on which type of phone line is being used. 

FAQs About E911

Choosing an E911 provider can be complex. Offerings that may sound familiar can be vastly different once you break it down to fit your specific needs. If you choose incorrectly, there can be serious consequences not only for your business, but your customers as well. 

Knowing which questions to ask are some of the biggest challenges, especially with the high number of acronyms used as well as all the changing rules/regulations. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we hear regarding E911, and you can access more questions as well as our in-depth answers here. 

  • How do I manage my VoIP E911 operations?
    • Look for self-service features, such as a dashboard, that lets you provision, report, and open support tickets at your convenience. You should also seek a full suite of tools that give you visibility into things like registered addresses, unprovisioned 911 endpoints, and emergency call detail records (CDRs), etc.
  • How do VoIP E911 solutions validate addresses?
    • Find out how several locations can be associated with a single IP-enabled nomadic device. People go many places throughout the day, like home, work, their kids’ schools, the gym, etc. Emergencies can happen at the blink of an eye, so it’s pertinent to be able to give your customers as many options as possible. It is also important that customers be able to update their own records in your 911 system; people may move or change jobs, and placing a service call to update their information can easily become an inconvenience.
  • Can you deliver to any PSAP capable of E911? 
    • A provider should be able to offer a variety of PSAP connectivity options to maximize E911 availability. Good 911 providers will have a process for working with the PSAP to ensure service is available when you need it. Your provider should be able to deliver calls to PSAPs in all the regions where you have end users. Good 911 providers will have a process in place for testing with the PSAP when you turn your service up.

How is Bandwidth Involved with E911

Bandwidth offers three E911 routing solutions to meet the various needs of our diverse customer base. These 911 Access services and their accompanying features are geared towards providers of VoIP-based phone solutions. Our E911 services include Standard Address Routing, Coordinates Routing, and Dynamic Location Routing. These services differ based on the method of location routing as well as the end user’s profile. By assessing these factors, Bandwidth is able to determine what E911 service is best for each of our customers. For more information on each one of our E911 services, check out our comprehensive overviews of Standard Address Routing, Coordinates Routing, and Dynamic Location Routing to learn more.

What are the Benefits of Bandwidth’s E911 Services

Bandwidth understands the importance of making sure an end user has reliable, fast access emergency services when they need it most. That is why we offer three different E911 options to cover a variety of different scenarios that your customers might find themselves in. Whether you need to provide 911 access to end users who are constantly on the go or to those that are close to home, Bandwidth has you covered.

In addition to our array of services, Bandwidth provides our customers with a world class support team that is on-call 24/7 to address any problems that might arise. Our Network Operations Center (NOC) team is always available to give you peace of mind that your 911 access services are ready to use whenever the time comes. In addition, Bandwidth offers all of these features with our easy-to-use and secure APIs. We’ve mastered E911, so you can focus on what matters most to you.

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